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Archive for July, 2015

“By his service to the Lord, Joseph of Arimathea, helped form The Apostles’ Creed: “and was buried and on the third day…”

Concordia and Koinonia

 

This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus. (LCMS)

Reflection:  Joseph of Arimathea is a critical actor in the burial of Jesus.  If a congregation were to do a Passion play, the role of Joseph would be a bit part, just one…

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Biography:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge,England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany he became a friend of Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled “Sententiae.” Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529 Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political andecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious table companion and guest of our home, this holy martyr, Saint Robertus.”

The following is a quote  by Luther (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer)which shows his close friendships with Robert Barnes.  I have included some footnotes into the text for historical clarification and spiritual elucidation:

This Dr. Robert Barnes we certainly knew, and it is a particular joy for me to hear that our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest has been so graciously called by God to pour out his blood and to become a holy martyr for the sake of His dear Son. Thanks, praise, and glory be to the Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who again, as at the beginning, has granted us to see the time in which His Christians, before our eyes and from our eyes and from beside us, are carried off to become martyrs (that is, carried off to heaven) and become saints (1).

Now, since this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes, heard at the time that his King Henry VIII of England was opposed to the pope, he came back to England with the hope of planting the Gospel in his homeland and finally brought it about that it began(2) . To cut a long story short, Henry of England was pleased with him, as is his way, until he sent him to us at Wittenberg in the marriage matter (3).

Dr. Robert Barnes himself often said to me: Rex mews non curat religionem, Sed est, etc. [“My king does not care about religion, but he is,” etc.]. Yet he loved his king and homeland so keenly that he willingly endured everything like that and always thought to help England . And it is indeed true that one who would not be optimistic toward his homeland and would not wish everything good for his prince must be a shameful rogue, as not only the Scriptures but also all our laws teach. He always had these words in his mouth: Rex mews, regem meum [“my king, my king”], as his confession indeed indicates that even until his death he was loyal toward his king with all love and faithfulness, which was repaid by Henry with evil. Hope betrayed him. For he always hoped his king would become good in the end(4).

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.(5)

(1)  Luther rejoices that there are martyrs and Robert was one of them!  His attitude runs contrary to worldly thought. The way of the world and the flesh is everyone goes in lock step with the world and this means the Church and Christ’s Christians are not fitting in but are preaching the Word. The world does not like this, to say the least.  The world knows nothing about heaven and the resurrection and thinks all of life is about the here and now alone, bent in upon itself.  Not so those called by the Lord, as St. Robert Barnes knew by faith in Jesus Christ. Robert’s martyrdom means he was faithful!

(2)  King Henry VIII, the king of power and notoriety, who had 6 wives and wanted a male heir to the throne,  did anything to secure the succession. Henry and Luther were contemporaries.

(3)  The “marriage matter”, or the “great matter” was King Henry the VIII’s desire to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, and the only way a divorce was granted was by the Pope’s annulment of a marriage.  The Pope did not so grant, so the King, who had considered himself a devout Roman Catholic, eventually declared himself the head of the Church in England.  The monarchs of the United Kingdom have been the head of the Church of England ever since.  This struggle to separate the English Church from the Roman Church was a time of great turmoil resulting in more than the execution of St. Robert Barnes, such as the beheading of Henry’s faithful Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. Luther was not for the divorce.

(4)  This is good illustration of the Biblical doctrine of the two kingdoms as rediscovered by the blessed Reformers.  According to Romans 13, the Lord rules through temporal kingdoms, or nations, for the well-being of temporal order, peace, security and the like and then through His kingdom, His spiritual reign through the coming of His reign, in the crucifixion, Resurrection and ascension of His beloved Son, and His reign is eternal. As the Lord rules through both, Christians are citizens of both and St. Robert did want to serve his King. We are to do our best as Americans to be “optimistic” in regards to our “homeland” and “wish everything good” for our government, and that is enough.  The temporal kings (rulers, president, prime ministers and the like) are placed there by God but not as God!  When any government, or church, would tell us not to preach and teach Jesus Christ, in word and/or deed, then as the Apostle Peter was also told that, we respond with the Apostle’s words:  We must obey God rather than men.  As Robert did and as Roman Catholic Thomas More said just before his execution:  “The king’s good servant, but God’s first.”  So with St. Robert and as Christians we are the king’s better servants because our hope is not for this world alone.

(5)  As it is written in Ephesians, our struggle is not against flesh and  blood but against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places. Our prayer is for the Lord’s vengeance against wrongdoing and wrong doers, make no mistake about that, but not as Christians to slay the wicked! As Pastor Andrew Preus recently wrote in a faithful article “Learning to Pray from the Imprecatory Psalms”

The devil would love to make us cry out curses with our own words and our own thoughts out of our own pride. James and John asked Jesus concerning the Samaritans who did not receive him, “Lord, should we tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:54)?” But the imprecatory psalms don’t have us call the fire down. They have us rather call God down. God is the one who brings vengeance (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). And he does this in his own time and wisdom as he reveals his own patience toward us and all sinners (2 Pet 3:9). Therefore Jesus rebuked his overzealous disciples. What begins with anger against injustice can, if the devil and the flesh are given opportunity, turn into prideful curses that reflect the will of the beast (Rev. 13:13) rather than the will of God.

And again as Luther prayed, we pray for the martyrs in our day in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya: 

Let us praise and thank God! This is a blessed time for the elect saints of Christ and an unfortunate, grievous time for the devil, for blasphemers, and enemies, and it is going to get even worse. Amen.

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Intro:  One of the current crazes among us Lutherans is Playmobil’s “Little Luther” figurines, from Germany.  In two years we will be observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon has conversations with a figurine of Mr. Spock whom Sheldon calls “Tiny Spock”. I wonder what Little Luther would say to a Lutheran Pastor…


“Little Luther,  you said yesterday that the Bible is basically all we need to grow the Church. Yes, the doctrines are good for growth, such as Law and Promise, justification and sanctification, but we know so many strategies, polling, surveys and the such to grow the Church.  You certainly can’t be against that?

little luther

“Pastor, you have a “the Word, but” problem!  You seem to truly know little Luther! As if  preaching and teaching the Word is non satis est, not enough, not satisfactory! Read again in the Book you are holding. I will be the apostle for you:  “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”(2 Timothy 4: 1-2) 

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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel according to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Martha was busy with much serving.   Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of saving doctrine,  results in mere activism and busy-ness as evidenced in Martha, and with it resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then the work week.  See Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer with contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her: “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  She even pointed ou to the Lord the obvious stench of the tomb.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world.

In the Collect (Prayer) of the Day above, we pray that the might serve Jesus, “…faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus“.  Serving, learning, and hoping in Jesus Christ is our life in Him and describes Christ’s life today and to come.  Lazarus represents everyone’s life without the Lord:  dead, spiritually and physically.  In the tomb, Lazarus could not really want to be alive or make “his decision for Christ”, only the Lord’s Word makes alive for us.  As it is clear in the Bible, “…we were dead in our trespasses” and only Christ in His Word to Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, makes us alive, faith holding tight to Christ, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).

The Apostle Paul continued in his letter to Ephesians,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us the immeasurable riches of Christ Jesus’ grace.  A saint is a role model, not of mere moral goodness but of the Lord’s goodness, His grace toward sinful man and woman. Amen.

 

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Intro:  One of the current crazes among us Lutherans is Playmobil’s “Little Luther” figurines, from Germany.  In two years we will be observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon has conversations with a figurine of Mr. Spock whom Sheldon calls “Tiny Spock”. I wonder what Little Luther would say to a Lutheran Pastor…


“Little Luther,  you really did not answer my question yesterday: what should I do to grow the Church?”

little luther

“Pastor, I think you are holding the answer in your hand!”

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in the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received. Bach Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

On this day in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach died, thus it is for the saints in Christ, a “heavenly birthday”. 

When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit course on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it. Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that books were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  

Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach through music.  One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large part of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (Evening in the Palace of  Reason by James R. Gaines). That sentence sums up Bach’s understanding of music.  He would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God. He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany. After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  Bach’s music still preaches.

Bach’s texts usually were the Bible and he put the Scripture to music. In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition.  Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel. Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard was the Lord’s commands and promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and he knew the Lord’s second best gift, music.  “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther).   Bach’s talent at the organ and as a composer was wanted by the Church and he was not popular in the courts of public taste, but being popular in the world is never the goal, Christ is.

Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time. In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received. The Word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to His greater glory  and the joy of the Church, which is always,  “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.

In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons in classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”. We also can say, Ahhh, Bach! 

Thank-you Lord for Bach and all church organists, choir directors, choirs and musicians who also through music, especially Bach’s, proclaim the eternal Gospel.

Listen to Bach’s popular chorale Cantata 147,  Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

 

 

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Little Luther

Intro:  One of the current crazes among us Lutherans is Playmobil’s “Little Luther” figurines, from Germany.  In two years we will be observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, Sheldon has conversations with a figurine of Mr. Spock whom Sheldon calls “Tiny Spock”. I wonder what Little Luther would say to a Lutheran Pastor…


“Little Luther, what should I do to grow my Church?” little luther

“First, don’t buy little toy figurines of me. And who said it’s your Church?  I’d rather you not be named after me.  We’re named after Christ. After all,  I’m recycling fodder.

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